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Star Wars: Clone Wars: Volume 1

Fox Video
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

Alec Guinness and Mark Hamill spoke of the Clone Wars in 1977's original Star Wars. 2002's Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones hinted about the Clone Wars in its title, yet only showed the preamble to the legendary battle. This year's Episode III: Revenge of the Sith deals with the aftermath of the Clone Wars and the emergence of Darth Vader.

So what happened in the Clone Wars? Creator George Lucas has skipped that part in Star Wars history as far as live-action films are concerned, but he has commissioned animators to tell the story. This DVD encapsulates Volume One of the animated shorts that have been airing on the Cartoon Network, and this is must-see viewing for Star Wars fans.

The animation has a slight Japanese anime flavor, and it suits the story well. Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Mace Windu take part in some fierce light-saber battles that are actually quite exciting, and there is a true sense of the story's continuation after the last film. The hokey love story between Anakin and Amidala is pushed into the background for some sweet galactic battle action. Anakin's straying from his master's orders, and his journey toward "the dark side" are further examined.

As for voices, creators have found mostly sound-alikes to recreate the major roles, although the voice of Anthony Daniels does show up as C-3PO. The voices of Obi-Wan and Anakin sound very much like Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, but a look at the cast reveals they were nowhere near this project.

In essence, Clone Wars works as a worthy Star Wars film, and some fans might find themselves wishing Lucas had chosen to film this chapter as live action. For those planning to line up for this May's Revenge of the Sith, this is required viewing.

Special Features: Bridging the Saga: From Clone Wars to Revenge of the Sith goes into the origins and creation of the animation series, with Lucas explaining his reasons for the cartoons. It also offers a look into Clone Wars: Volume Two, where Anakin's hair will grow out in time for Episode 3. Director commentaries and trailers help to make this a worthwhile package.

Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music

Movie B-
Special Features D
DVD Geek Factor: 5 (out of 10)

This is an intimate documentary following Cash and wife June Carter as they toured in the late '60s with Carl Perkins. The production quality is justifiably lousy, but the content is pretty cool, including decent versions of songs like Ring of Fire and funny home moments with Cash and family.

The disc highlight would be One Too Many Mornings, a powerful in studio duet with a young Bob Dylan. This moment caught me off guard, and seeing the two legends perform together is a real treat.

I got my first taste of Johnny Cash when I was in Sunday School and had to sit through Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus. Cash narrated the story of Jesus Christ while wife June Carter Cash played Mary Magdalene. It struck me as weird when I was 7, and it still strikes me as weird today. It took me a couple more years to appreciate the Man in Black for who he was (the guy who sang Ring of Fire).

Gospel Road has yet to find a home on DVD, but this documentary has. Cash fans will regard at as a treasure trove of worthy moments from their hero. Others will see it as a cheap hodge-podge of shoddily filmed home movies.

Special Features: Pretty weak. A jukebox of the musical numbers contained in the film accompanied by ho-hum commentary. No big deal.

Being Ron Jeremy

Movie D
Special Features D
DVD Geek Factor 2 (out of 10)

This one is a spoof of Being John Malkovich, a film where John Cusack offered people a chance to travel through a portal and occupy Malkovich's mind and body. In this not-so-funny 40 minute-ish exercise in bad taste, people travel into porn star Ron Jeremy, getting a chance to have sex with porn stars. This, of course, results in Jeremy's body suffering a premature ejaculation problem, because visitors to his being cannot handle the sights, sounds and feels. Andy Dick drops by for some comic riffing with Jeremy, and the results are predictably awful. I think I hurt myself watching this thing, suffering some sort of entertainment trauma that I'm not likely to get over anytime soon.

Special Features: Some outtake footage of the female porn stars who willingly got naked near Jeremy for this film, featuring plenty of nudity and the occasional nauseating moment. The Reverend Billy Graham offers a commentary on how Jeremy is going to hell, and you are going to hell as well for watching this thing. (Just kidding, but that would've been kind of cool.)